Posts tagged "consumer engagement"

Healthy Living Insight and the Future of Food and Beverage

October 1st, 2018 Posted by Agency Services, Brand preference, branded content, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Emergent Column, Healthy lifestyle, Healthy Living 0 comments on “Healthy Living Insight and the Future of Food and Beverage”

Are you aligned on the pathway to true relevance?

What is the most powerful and pervasive condition impacting consumer product category growth across the lifestyle continuum? Effectively answering the consumer’s desire for a healthier lifestyle. This is the driving force that sits underneath Emergent’s agency value proposition and the work we do for our clients.

At the foundation of this transformational shift is an over-arching interest in a higher-quality life. Consumers believe their decisions and actions in this arena will impact personal happiness, safety and wellness.

Healthy living knocks at the front door of relevance to consumer wants and desires. It is a mindful choice made by increasingly mindful consumers across all age cohorts. Nowhere can this be seen in greater relief than food and beverage choices which have morphed in recent years from taste, price and convenience purchase drivers to a more enlightened set of criteria that pays homage to the healthy lifestyle priority.

Transparency, supply chain visibility, clean labels, ingredient quality, fresh and real food preferences are all evidence of momentum behind the consumer’s growing self-awareness. They are in charge of their lives, in control of brand relationships and thus able to exercise choice to reward those brands that are aligned with their personal interests, beliefs and needs.

  • Simply stated, consumers believe that the quality of what they consume impacts the quality of their lives. What people choose to eat manifests in their daily lives as a contribution to health, wellness, career performance, happiness, satisfaction and the ability to achieve life goals.

This is no longer a tertiary issue or a sub-segment of the larger consumer population. It is a swollen river of preference that is washing away the less relevant while rewarding the brands that mirror consumer lifestyle requirements.

How did we get here?

We can trace the origins of this shift back to the early 1990’s when the organic foods market was still emerging, and consumers started to pay attention to a new voice on how food is produced and what the differences are between factory made and farm fresh options. This became transformational when the rBST debate took hold and the organic milk business started to skyrocket as serving organic milk to children became a marker of good parenting skills.

Concurrently, the explosion of digital communication created a shift in the balance of power where anything that can be known will be known, and with it a cultural change. Now consumers want to be informed on where food comes from, how products are produced, thus enhancing the value proposition for higher quality real and fresh foods vs. packaged and highly processed legacy brand mainstays.

You are what you eat

The relationship between what people put in their bodies and how it affects health and wellness goals changed from addition by subtraction – the scientific removal of fat, sugar, sodium and the like, to a different picture of addition by addition.

People now perceive the quality of the food they eat or drink is related to the quality of their lives. This cultural swing resulted in a sea change at food retail, with center store packaged food businesses facing headwinds in share losses and volume declines. Meanwhile, the perimeter departments selling fresh and reimagined, more transparent and relevant versions of packaged stalwarts have skyrocketed.

  • Equity investment in the food space has plunged into the abyss in efforts to help scale the myriad of new, nascent food brands coming to market with quality elevations in virtually every category with a growth pulse.

Meanwhile, home cooking is experiencing a renaissance as consumers shop fresh ingredients and menus that require preparation; looking to feed their appetite for new flavor adventures. Convenience in this new world order translates to enhanced Deli menus and fresh solutions at supermarkets, and the emergence of meal kits to help curate the dinner need with prepped high-quality ingredients and tantalizing recipes.

Relevance and the future of food and beverage marketing

What does it all mean? This is what keeps the C-suite leadership teams in CPG food and beverage companies and food retailers up at night. What was once a brand controlled state in the marketplace, where heavy media spending could spell the difference in achieving quarterly results, has fallen away as consumers own and operate the levers of commerce.

Consumer control requires deft and agile moves by brands to align themselves with their desires, interests and lifestyle goals. The more powerful path in marketing is no longer lined with assertions of product features and benefits. Now the momentum belongs to brands that truly try to help and enable what their users dream to accomplish.

Marketing today is a reciprocity construct where brands earn permission for a relationship by thinking past their own product and trying to make a clear difference in their customers’ lives – be that by activating their creative aspirations in the kitchen, the social experiences around the table, or serving as a functional contributor on their path to healthy living.

Emergent as arbiter of insight and translation to strategy, better communication

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we do at Emergent. We’ve been ahead of the trend even before healthy lifestyle became a ‘thing’ and remain a voice in the industry on this evolving landscape upheaval.

Our value proposition is bound to the insights we own on consumer interests, needs and the new marketing toolkit required to successfully leverage that understanding for business growth.

By virtue of that, Emergent is purposefully a hybrid of strategic guidance tied to creative communications, smothered in a secret sauce of consumer insight that helps inform our thinking, messaging and go-to-market ideas.

Whether you are a food retailer trying to evolve as conditions around you in e-commerce and consumer preference change, or a food and beverage brand, large or small, trying to optimize and scale the business you’re creating; we can help optimize your core proposition and add value to your efforts to gain the ear of elusive and hard-to-reach consumers.

How can we be helpful to you?

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mining the Marketing Gap: Promises and Expectations Lost

June 11th, 2018 Posted by brand marketing, brand strategy, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, food experiences, Restaurant trends, shopper experience, Social media 0 comments on “Mining the Marketing Gap: Promises and Expectations Lost”

Actions and experience overtake words…

You see the ad on TV for the casual restaurant chain; beautiful food, luscious, mouth-watering dishes redolent in bright colorful hues with freshly-made steam stunts and sizzle sound effects designed to get that mouth watering. You might eat the screen.

We’re confident the chain brand minders see these displays of gastronomic splendor as adoring portraits of what they want consumers to believe. You can almost taste the flowing, cascading drawn butter. But then…there’s the actual experience. You can also see the disappointment train hurtling towards the taste buds at break-neck speed, when in reality the product itself can’t reasonably fulfill the promise envisioned in the marketing.

Over-cooked proteins running along side the previously freezer-burn state of ingredients comes through in chewy textures and dryness that slams head-on into the saucy, just-ripe, fresh product pictorial. Imagery can be artfully arranged on beautiful plates displayed in the advertising. If everyone could just eat the ad, please!

What’s the price of breaking a promise and expectation?

What is presented as hand crafted comes through as factory made, and in that bright shining moment the aura of disenchantment comes home to roost. Yes you can cynically declare, “sure but what did they expect, it’s a chain restaurant after all, not some high-end white tablecloth place.” Even in the silver service trade the same experiences of historic letdown can be had when chefy epicurean food doesn’t ring true and questions arise about who is really behind the kitchen stove.

Just beyond the restaurant service levels, dining room experience, wait times, order accuracy, cleanliness, friendliness and all-around happiness-inducing procedures, lurks the opportunity to either delight or dissatisfy.

Across the continuum of retail experiences from supermarkets to clothing retailers to department stores, boutiques and beyond, everyday there are moments available to wow and surprise or participate in an epic fail. In today’s digital culture, the reality, broad-daylight moments can be relayed to communities of friends or fans in mere seconds -replete with accompanying photography or video to verify the facts.

True experience is key. The validation of assertions in marketing is so incredibly important, we, at Emergent, have built an entire marketing model around trust creation. We call it Validation Marketing. The price of failure to build trust is just too great. Reputation is everything and reality is the truth serum administered daily by measuring the gap between promise, purpose and actual proof.

The decline of marketing effectiveness has often been laid off to the “interruptive” tactics of forcing people to gulp down sales messages. Now that consumers have control over media, the force-feeding is about gone. Persuasion sits on the garbage pile of old-line mass media ploys – a communications dog that just won’t hunt anymore as consumers click to avoid the onslaught.

However we have another aligned explanation: the wink-wink of imagined expectation vs. authenticity served early and often, has constructed a concrete chasm between brands and their users. You cannot underestimate the fallout, the insidious rust and corrosion that’s heaped on brand/consumer relationships when ‘actual results may vary’ stings the hardest. It happens all too often when what someone thought would occur inside the store or product package gives way to the “the little white lie” that was shaped with cinematic story in the marketing.

Transparency reigns supreme

There have been too many trips to disappointment junction. What we now have is a belief breach in the brand relationship. If the product or store experience doesn’t match the marketing is it wrong to go there in the first place? It might be.

Every brand, every business today lives in a glass house. What can be known will be known digitally, quickly and by ever-larger audiences. So the distance between anticipated outcome and actual experiences must be closed. The trophy in the battle for future growth will go to those marketers who understand the significance of this behavior principle. Sweating the details of how everything works to deliver on expectations is required. What you say, especially do and provide must all match up.

How does an organization assure that the truth is told rather than fiction? If the truth about the product is sub-optimal, fix the product – ditto store experience. By the way, the product and experience IS the marketing.

When transparency is embraced as a marketing principle, the move to ‘reveal all’ changes the paradigm of how plans, programs and communications are built. If you are amply proud of your product and store experience because the real encounter and formula is indeed terrific, then pulling the communications curtain open a bit wider becomes more comfortable, do-able.

  • Trust sits at the core of everything in marketing and in business. Having respect for the consumer’s welfare and intelligence should share equal stature in how strategies are created. Employing trusted sources and voices as part of the marketing mix are vital to helping validate what is promised.

This is the price of admission, now, to a brand relationship. It’s a 360-degree approach to marketing and planning that recognizes how all aspects of what a brand or store or restaurant does and how it performs must be factored into the trust equation.

What delivery on the promise looks like:

  • SweetGreen’s promise of devotion to fresh, real produce ingredients is true and lives in the product experience.
  • Starbuck’s assertion as a third-place of social experience is for the most part, a true thing (some recent behavioral missteps a note-able exception).
  • Apple’s promise of intuitive product experience is for the most part, true.
  • Amazon’s delivery of a friction-less e-commerce shopping environment bears truth daily.

For every true there’s many more that routinely blow the tire between what’s promoted and what happens. The organization’s total commitment to optimal quality and experience is required BEFORE communications are designed.

Communications inspired by transparent outreach and allowing consumers inside the tent, will win out over the portraiture that looks great on the surface, but is hiding something else underneath. The really great athletes in virtually every category of competitive sport achieve their fame and fortunes daily by working, sweating, training, trying and performing. They are driven to do so.

Marketing should fully embrace those same operating principles, energy and work ethic. No disguise needed.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nation’s Restaurant Chains Stumble Onto Goldmine

May 15th, 2018 Posted by brand marketing, Culinary inspiration, Digital ordering, Food service, Healthier habits, Healthy lifestyle, Healthy Living, Navigation, Restaurant trends, Retail brand building 0 comments on “Nation’s Restaurant Chains Stumble Onto Goldmine”

Can regulation make it rain?

On Monday, May 7 Federal regulations went into effect requiring any foodservice retail business with 20 or more locations to begin posting nutritional details for food and beverage items on their menus. For most foodservice operators this means a revamp of menu descriptions and the addition of nutrition data sections at their web site and point of order. Typically this features spreadsheet-type lists spraying a blurry, eye chart-worthy inventory of calorie, fat, sugar, cholesterol and sodium stats.

But hidden within the clarion call for more what-you’re-eating disclosure is a potential restaurant business goldmine. At stake is an important regulatory-inspired opportunity for change. Important given foodservice businesses already face increased dining dollar competition from the significant resurgence of home cooked meal popularity. Yes, a home kitchen renaissance is underway, spurred by pervasive consumer interest in healthier foods and a desire to exercise more control over meal preparations, portions, costs and ingredients choices.

  • Studies show consumers believe dining out means agreement to compromise on their healthy eating interests while they navigate a trip down the boulevard of indulgence. A recent report by food industry trends watcher The Hartman Group, revealed consumers increasingly blame restaurants for a stunningly short list of healthier choices and absence of transparency around food – thus why they feel obligated to stow their healthy lifestyle interests at the vestibule of their favorite restaurant.

According to Hartman’s work, when the majority of consumers who already claim eating out is less healthy answer why this is true for them, the top scoring reason ̶ at 41 percent of those surveyed ̶ was a focus on ‘other things’ rather than health and wellness. But maybe it doesn’t have to be this way.

If prevailing food culture shifts point to home-cooked meals as the best and healthiest option for the vast majority of consumers, where does that leave restaurants on the better-for-you lifestyle bandwagon?

Could regulation make it rain?

The regulatory requirements may have issued a super-sized opportunity to reframe the restaurant menu story around a greater variety of healthier menu options. Then advanced with new technology that allows patrons to configure their own more informed, personalized menu choices ahead of arrival or on site with mobile friendly apps.

Reformulation through culinary innovation

But first, is the product itself. Restaurant meals can be made healthier without sacrificing taste by applying some of the more enlightened thinking now fueling the growth of new, emerging packaged food brands that are mounting a supermarket shelf takedown. Novel ingredients, cooking techniques, new forms of sweetening using natural sugars or sauces made with vegetable broths; meat alternatives formulated from nuts or pea protein – a cornucopia of new innovation is circling the food industry with an offer of improved nutritionals while delivering the indulgent flavors and textures of chef-inspired food.

There’s simply no longer any reason why menu items can’t be made healthier while retaining taste. It may add cost per serving but then we’ve also have seen repeatedly seen that consumers are willing to pay more for healthier fare if it can be verified as such – assuming taste is not sacrificed on the alter of improved nutrition numbers.

California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) and MyMenu Tech

San Diego-based digital foodservice player HealthyDiningFinder.com, originally stepped into the restaurant marketplace to curate a search-able database of restaurants offering healthy menu items. More recently, they’ve rolled out their new MyMenu platform at CPK and Mexican cuisine specialist Rubio’s Coastal Grill, an algorithm driven business that offers restaurants a plug-and-play solution to their regulatory obligations, but served in a more user-friendly experience. It also brings a compelling add-on benefit: personal menu customization.

California Pizza Kitchen’s MyMenu pages open the door to new reasons to visit: With a few short clicks using a sliding bar selection tool on desired nutritional limits, the platform automatically sorts menu choices according to these preferences while calling up attractive photos and detailed descriptions of each dish or beverage. It reveals what’s in them and what they impart in terms of nutrition impact (calories, fat, sugar, etc.).

The Rubio’s MyMenu page also offers a pre-set list of menu alternatives created by Healthy Dining’s dietitian experts around lifestyle preferences such as Energy, Fit Lifestyle and Weight Control. Each choice rolls up special menus based on these specific interests.

The tool’s flexibility creates the option to customize a dish with ingredient swap-outs or to build a full meal while each dish and drink selection repopulates the overall impact on nutrition outcomes, so you know immediately how many calories and fat grams are involved.

  • In a soon-to-arrive platform enhancement, Healthy Dining says guests will be able to save selections for future use, and there will be options for purchase on-site, for pick-up or delivery. Then patrons will be able to build and retain their own personal menu for a variety of their favorite eateries using the tool  ̶  all based on individual dietary preferences and healthy dining interests.

Of course, the key here is to actually have healthier choices available, and in doing so, solve the dilemma of perceived nutritional sacrifice that restaurant eating might entail. The goldmine is simple: remove the friction from healthier choice at out-of-home eating by offering more healthy choices.

Then look to software platforms like MyMenu to allow patrons to examine, sort and retain their healthy meal preferences ̶ and with it creating an opportunity to forge foodservice brand preference.

For those restaurants that get this right, it could be an equally compelling do-it-for-me dining offer that rivals the siren song of home cooked healthier meals.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

 

 

WILL SOCIAL CHANNEL SHIFTS DRIVE BRANDS TO GO DIRECT?

February 23rd, 2018 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, CMO, Content Marketing, Digital marketing, digital tools, food retail strategy, Food service, Social community, Social media, social media marketing 0 comments on “WILL SOCIAL CHANNEL SHIFTS DRIVE BRANDS TO GO DIRECT?”

Brands look to better manage their own destiny

As we’ve stated many times here at Emergent, the brand that gets closest to the customer wins. Yet a form of strategic separation now descending on the food marketing universe has made it more challenging for brands to manage how that consumer closeness is achieved. These same conditions help contribute to the collapse of traditional media marketing models (about scale and control) often deployed by legacy brands to build and maintain consumer relationships.

As a result, we believe what’s ahead for CPG food may well include a large helping of direct-to-consumer outreach efforts. E-commerce growth has already redefined the business landscape, giving consumers a comfort level with buying products from home.

Retail isn’t going away, online or off, but we think a measurable percentage of the business overall may indeed move to direct-to-consumer platforms.

Meantime escalating brand participation in the “walled garden” of rented audiences in major social channels, such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, has also conveyed relationship control to these platform intermediaries. On any given day, the decisions made by these social media giants can be a good thing or bad as their policy changes impact what brands can and cannot do on their platforms.

  • Brands, now forced to reckon with the shift of business to e-commerce, are finding the complexity of cross channel marketing and online engagement has already worked to snuff out the last embers of mass media’s flame. Disappearing with mass media’s grip is the brand’s ability to efficiently leapfrog various forms of retail or other digital gatekeepers to capture consumer brand equity and preference.

Algorithm alarm bell – now what?

Food and beverage companies working to implement their brand-building strategies in social channels find themselves challenged once again, as the behemoth community aggregators like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube adjust algorithms and feed policies making it harder to organically scale audience attention and reach.

In January, the tide turned (the second time since 2016) as Facebook announced yet another round of changes that favor posts from friends and family while diminishing organic post distribution from brands and publishers. Larger, mega-influencers – who must use Pages rather than personal Facebook accounts – will face a similar audience squeeze.

More regulated content policies put greater pressure on brands in social channels to up their shareable post quality game. We believe though, these restrictive conditions will add more value to building direct consumer relationships. This means, thoughtfully reconsidering how best to connect with consumers and deploy tools that sit outside the control of social channel policy moves, through owned channels like Blogs and email (e-newsletter).

Consequently, we believe the model for food and beverage brand building may change in the next three to five years. Pepsico currently projects their annual e-commerce sales to be north of a $1 billion across direct, retailer-owned and pure play (Amazon) e-commerce channels.

Of note, many of the new and emerging brands now grabbing the marketing spotlight in food, got their start in the direct-to-consumer space, where they built a loyal fan following before venturing into retail channel distribution.

  • A classic example: in the personal care category, online brand Harry’s disrupted the legacy razor blade industry by answering consumer frustration over runaway price increases. They successfully constructed a direct-to-consumer subscription model that helped Harry’s deliver a more affordable, high-quality alternative. The new Harry’s brand story, alongside rival Dollar Shave Club, helped end Gillette’s dominance.

As consumer contentment with buying online continues to expand in adjacent businesses, Harry’s recently secured added equity investment to fund another bellwether expansion. This time into other personal care, household and baby products categories that may naturally fit into a subscription model.

Bottom line: selling directly allows the brand unfiltered and unfettered access to consumers. As such it enables a direct flow of conversation without the unexpected shifts that are occurring in third party social channels due to conflicting business interests and priorities.

Behavior changes occurring behind the curtain

We see the shift to e-commerce as an outcome of evolutionary progress – meaning anything that adds measurably to consumer convenience and satisfaction is going to get its day in the sun.

During the last decade consumers spent 12 percent less time shopping, according to Jared Koerten, senior food analyst with Euromonitor International. “Consumers are spending less time shopping (while) looking for efficiencies and ways to save time,” he said. The result is fewer conventional shopping trips while online ordering continues to accelerate.

E-commerce and the digital communications environment will continue to be a major focus of brand marketing strategies. Consumers see the value in reallocating their spare time from shopping trip to other passions and pursuits. Be that as it may, other changes are occurring in the digital universe that impact how closer consumer relationships are incubated.

Emergent’s guidance on optimizing social channel strategy:

  1. Social algorithm changes enhance the valuable role of smaller (nano) influencers and the content they create, while amplifying the need to ensure that influencer relationships are truly founded on aligned interests and subject matter relevance.
  2. Social channel policy changes that depress organic distribution and engagement will necessitate yet again, more pay-to-play activity to boost posts.
  3. There will be diversification of outreach strategies to include more investment in direct paths of communication through Blogs and email.
  4. Rise of User Generated Content as a key component of social media marketing strategy. This tactic helps sidestep the policy changes and hits the right notes on authenticity and value to brand community participants.
  5. In case you’re wondering what form of content ranks highest in shares on social channels: Infographics.

Social channel policy changes and the dynamics of e-commerce may favor a new look for brand marketing that leans in on going direct. With it comes great responsibility in how these interactions are managed – so it doesn’t appear to be just a transactional proposition.

Help over hype – always.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

 

 

 

Money Down the Drain

What’s that sucking sound on the trip to engagement town?

January 19th, 2016 Posted by brand marketing, Insight 0 comments on “What’s that sucking sound on the trip to engagement town?”

Finding Marketing Magic when it’s so elusive.

Pffffft – that’s the noise marketing budgets make disappearing down the rabbit hole of attempted engagement when forced and bait-driven connection strategies are at play.

You want to tell your brand story. You believe it’s important that as many eyes and ears as possible hear the tale. So you look for every possible way to aggregate an audience in an era that works day and night against aggregation.

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New Marketing: Stop Selling and Start Engaging

November 4th, 2015 Posted by Insight, storytelling, Uncategorized 0 comments on “New Marketing: Stop Selling and Start Engaging”

Bringing more humanity to the conversation

Human Relationship Building

More often than not, marketing campaigns celebrated in the ad and marketing trades get the attention because in one way or another they may be fun, sexy, innovative or even glamorous.

Yet ultimately when we put the acid test of consumer behavior against the outcomes, we find that despite the adoration, occasionally these investments are simply ineffective.

Why?

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